THE Environment Agency has been accused of ignoring local building companies for the Morpeth flood alleviation scheme.
A few months ago, it appointed North Yorkshire-based Birse Civils as the main contractor for the £21million project.
This decision has been criticised by Widdrington Station resident Anderson Crowe, who works in the building trade.
He believes the job should have been given to a firm located in or near Morpeth.
The organisation has hit back, saying it followed the rules on procurement and a large number of people living within a 20-mile radius of the town will be working on the site.
“Bringing in a company from outside the area is rubbing salt into the wounds of building firms located in the former Castle Morpeth area that have had it tough over the last few years,” said Mr Crowe.
“This multimillion-pound scheme should be boosting the local economy through the employment of many local people.
“There are quite a few businesses in this area that have the expertise to carry out the job.”
The scheme includes new defence walls and embankments in Mitford Road, High Stanners, Low Stanners and around Oldgate Bridge and an upstream storage system on the Mitford Estate.
A spokesman for the Environment Agency said: “We have a national procurement framework for the construction of our major flood defence projects.
“This framework is awarded in line with the European Public Procurement rules.
“Birse Civils were the successful bidder under this framework for the Morpeth Scheme.
“Through our sustainable procurement process and various initiatives such as supplier development, we work with our Tier One suppliers to meet various Government targets.
“One being to report and demonstrate their commitment to their use of small and medium enterprises for at least 25 per cent of spend through the framework.
“This is in support of the Government’s 2011 target.
“Furthermore, Birse Civils has a regional office in North Tyneside and at least half of those who are likely to work on the site live within a 20-mile radius of the site.
“Birse Civils will also sub-contract some works to other companies, including local firms.”